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10 Rillington Place (1970)

Horror is a subjective thing... for most of the films on this site it tends to involve lumbering oafs with other people's brains inserted in them, blood-sucking undead or violent sharp-instrument murder. So a film about a deranged slaphead with a predeliction for gassing young women and abusing their twitching corpses doesn't really fit in... or does it?

Yes. There are few films on this site more harrowing than Rillington Place, and that probably has a lot to do with one thing... it all happened. As the credits roll we are proudly informed that this is a very true story, much of the dialogue culled from court reports from the time. That statement alone is enough to make you shudder.

And it wastes no time getting down to the nitty gritty, either - an almost unrecognisable Richard Attenborough indulging in some nasty shenanigans with a middle aged woman that involve a length of pipe, an old cigarette box, a jar full of white liquid and a small amount of brute force. Not to mention good old British Gas. If you see Sid, be sure to tell him.

Perhaps more disturbing than this, or the sight of a podgy Dickie sporting shaved-bald monk-like hairdo and paedo glasses in his role as Christie, is the following image of him frotting the body and moaning with orgasmic delight. Ew.

The body gets buried in the garden, and in move young couple John Hurt and Judy Geeson (Hurt, unfortunately, deciding to put on a Welsh accent - "I likes blinking, I does"). Attenborough is at his seedy, lisping best when sizing up the lovely Geeson as a possible "conquest", and once she reveals she's pregnant and wants to "get rid of it", he wastes no time in concocting a cock-and-bull story about his medical credentials. In fact, both of the couple are a bit thick, Hurt doing his usual role of shouting braggart with aplomb, but with a Welsh accent. Once Geeson is despatched (the Hitchcock-like addition of workmen arriving just as the murder is about to begin unfortunately not expanded on), Christie tells the distraught Hurt that it was all his fault for allowing the op to go ahead, packs him off to Wales and allows the non-genius to dig his own hole.

The film is beautifully shot with an almost sepia pallette, even on the rare occasions we're allowed to leave the house. And the ending, although grim, is a breath of fresh air. You're left imagining the 2001 re-make, when Christie, on being stopped by police, pulls a gun, attempts to shoot his way to freedom, commandeers a car, massacres several inncoent pedestrians and is eventually cornered on the London Eye and plunges to his doom in slow motion. Don't laugh, we all know it would happen.

But perhaps the most horrific thing about all the proceedings is not only the fate of Hurt's character, but the postscipt to the film, which informs us that his body was pardoned 12 years later. So that's okay, then. House Of Whipcord had nothing on real life.

Director: Richard Fleischer Writer(s): Clive Exton, Ludovic Kennedy (book Ten Rillington Place)

Cast: Richard Attenborough - John Reginald Christie, Judy Geeson - Beryl Evans, John Hurt - Timothy John Evans, Pat Heywood - Mrs. Ethel Christie, Isobel Black - Alice, Miss Riley - Baby Geraldine, Phyllis MacMahon - Muriel Eady, Ray Barron - Workman Willis, Douglas Blackwell - Workman Jones, Gabrielle Daye - Mrs. Lynch, Jimmy Gardner - Mr. Lynch, Edward Evans - Det. Inspector, Tenniel Evans - Detective Sergeant, David Jackson - Constable, George Lee - Constable, Richard Coleman - Constable, André Morell - Judge Lewis, Robert Hardy - Malcolm Morris, Geoffrey Chater - Christmas Humphreys, Basil Dignam - Member of the medical board, Norman Henry - Member of the Medical Board, Edward Burnham - Member of the medical board, Edwin Brown - Hangman, Norma Shebbeare - Woman in cafe, Sam Kydd - Roberts, Rudolph Walker - West Indian, Tommy Ansah - West Indian, Reg Lye - Tram, Margaret Boyd - Old Lady, Jack Carr - Constable, Edward Cast - Plainclothes Sergeant, Uel Deane - Irish Tenor, Arthur Gross - Man in Pub, Fred Hugh - Man in Pub, Howard Lang - Man in Pub, Tony Thawnton - Desk Sergeant, Edward Woodward - Witnessing officer at hanging

 

Last updated: February 26, 2010

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